Econet Wireless, Zimbabwe’s largest telecoms firm, announced today that it has surpassed the 1 million mark in ‘connected’ users for its EcoCash mobile money service. The milestone, the company says in the announcement (a thank you to its subscribers), “has been achieved in record time and is the fastest growth of such a service in the world”.
This is the first time Econet has come out officially with information about the service’s uptake since launch back in September 2011. We’ve heard from sources at Econet that the service has had massive uptake in the market and that (this they mention very proudly) the rate of uptake has been far much higher than Kenya’s M-PESA registered when it launched.
The actual usage, which is a different measurement from the announced ‘connected’ users, has not been disclosed. We probably will get in a press release that follows such announcements. It’s also not clear today what the connected users use EcoCash for. The information we have in this regard (again all unofficial) is that most transactions are airtime topups. Local remittances (i.e. subscribers sending each other money) we hear don’t account for the bulk of transactions.
Remittances are the money in Mobile Money and Econet needs to get more remittance traffic. But that may not happen until it becomes a really extremely low cost (no brainer low) and convenient alternative to the other methods, i.e. the post office, the banks, and the other mobile money services.
One of the major gripes we had with Econet after it launched the service was that it was too costly to send money using EcoCash. To transfer US $200 to a non-EcoCash subscriber for example, a subscriber had to part with US $14 in charges. Econet quickly fixed this slashing that cost to $6 but it remained one of the most expensive mobile money services to use locally.
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